Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman Are an Unstoppable Duo

The rushing and receiving prowess of Atlanta's running back tandem has helped make the offense the best unit since 2000, per our metrics.

With Matt Ryan playing out of his mind in what should undoubtedly be an MVP season, it’s easy to overlook how valuable the Atlanta Falcons' backfield duo has been for their prolific offense.

The dynamic combination of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman was the most lethal backfield tandem in the NFL during the regular season. They averaged a league-best 168.9 combined scrimmage yards per game for a total of 2,482 yards for the year, and the twosome teamed up for 24 total touchdowns -- 13 for Freeman and 11 for Coleman -- in the regular season. Add in the one touchdown from fullback Patrick DiMarco, and the 25 total scores tied them with the Buffalo Bills for first among all running back groups in the NFL.

Freeman and Coleman have been so statistically prosperous because both backs have the unique ability to produce great numbers on the ground in addition to their top-shelf receiving skills. That versatile combination produced two top-10 finishes in our Total Net Expected Points (NEP) metric -- which indicates how many points a player adds to his team's expected scoring output -- among backs with at least 100 rush attempts this season.

Most running back duos these days are dissimilar in skill set and have more specialized roles (think: Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard or LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis). But both Coleman and Freeman can do it all as evidenced by their ranks in our rushing and receiving metrics among the 42 running backs who got at least 100 carries in 2016.

Player Rushing NEP Reception NEP Target NEP Reception NEP/Target Total NEP
Freeman 4th 7th 13th 12th 5th
Coleman 11th 4th 3rd 1st 8th

The combo of Freeman and Coleman was an extremely valuable asset for the Falcons’ high-flying offense in the regular season, and it has carried over into their run to Super Bowl LI. Through two playoff games, the duo has harmonized for 352 scrimmage yards on 67 touches and 4 total touchdowns.

When opposing defenses also have the beastly Julio Jones to worry about and a bevy of other talented downfield weapons (Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel and Austin Hooper, to name a few), you can see why Freeman and Coleman have effortlessly steamrolled this year. All the weapons -- plus the superb play of Ryan, of course -- is precisely why Atlanta ended the year with the best schedule-adjusted NEP per play mark (0.26) in our database, which dates back to 2000, narrowly besting the 2004 Indianapolis Colts and 2007 New England Patriots.

Oh, one more thing for the Freeman regression truthers out there in the fantasy world: Yes, Freeman saw a downtick in opportunities with Coleman sharing the workload. But the decreased volume only knocked his fantasy value down a few pegs from fantasy's RB1 in 2015 to the RB6 in 2016. For what it’s worth, Freeman is the only running back in the NFL to have 1,000-plus rushing yards and at least 10 rushing touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. And this year, he did it on 57 fewer touches.